Brandon Woodruff, 32, a hospital worker at a Detroit state-run psychiatric hospital for children, is suing after he was asked to play the role of a gunman in an active shooter drill that resulted in him almost getting shot by 50 police officers in tactical gear who thought it was the real deal.
Woodruff’s bosses evidently failed to tell the police, patients, their families, or staff about the drill. Panicked residents called 911 resulting in the worker’s arrest by officers in what could have been a deadly misunderstanding.
Woodruff had been working at the hospital for five months when his supervisor approached him and asked him to participate in the drill four days before last Christmas, according to the Daily Mail.
(Video Credit: Click On Detroit | Local 4 | WDIV)
The black hospital employee appeared with a fake rifle on the campus and sent residents running for their lives. They called 911 and sent what they believed were final text messages to loved ones. Fifty highly armed police officers descended on the hospital and on Woodruff.
“Although the terror, panic, and mortification of those trapped inside Hawthorn was real, there were no intruders, there were no AR-15s and there were no ‘shots fired,'” the lawsuit asserts.
“Rather, the State of Michigan created the terror and panic at Hawthorn Center as an ill-conceived ‘safety’ drill. Even the scores of law enforcement who responded to the frantic 911 calls from those trapped inside the building thought there were intruders with military-style weapons; they too were preparing to risk their lives to save the children and the adults who were trying to protect them,” it added.
Woodruff was not the only one to sue. He filed his lawsuit a month after families and staff sued over the incident seeking damages.
When the alert went out, it gave a physical description of a black shooter. Woodruff, who was unarmed, was told to walk through the corridors of the hospital, noting how people reacted and if there were any stragglers.
Detroit hospital does active shooter drill. Tell almost no one it's a drill. Has a Black employee play the shooter with a rifle. Mass panic, 911 calls, police arrest and handcuff the Black employee. Brandon Woodruff – pictured with his daughter – has filed a lawsuit for damages. pic.twitter.com/pv8YC7uHPP
— Don Lewis (@DonLew87) May 19, 2023
Woodruff was not thrilled with doing the drill but complied. As he went through the building, he observed that people looked genuinely terrified and he began to suspect something wasn’t right. He had no idea no one had been told about the drill according to the lawsuit.
In an interview with The Detroit Free Press, he told of a woman springing “like she ran for her dear life.”
“It was one particular room that drew me off guard, one of the living areas. It was the way it was barricaded’ with mattresses and chairs,” Woodruff recounted. “I had an uneasy feeling, like maybe these kids think this is real. I’m gonna like leave them alone in this area. They probably a little scared and not know what’s going on. So, I just left that area and just continued.”
Twenty-two heavily-armed police rushed to the hospital from Northville and Livonia townships. Michigan State Police also ran to the scene.
The officers were reportedly told it was a drill when they arrived at 10:30 am by two people including Woodruff. Both of them were told to lie down on the ground until their story could be verified.
While on the ground, Woodruff used his smartwatch to call his wife who recorded what was going on. He feared he might die during the incident and wanted his pregnant wife to hear what he thought might be the last moments of his life.
Hope he get millions.
He could have gotten killed.
The people that were involved who put this plan in place, should get fired, and go to jail.
— lord baal (@lordbaal1) May 19, 2023
Woodruff’s attorneys claim he “heard the safeties come off the police officers’ weapons.”
“Woodruff did his best to comply with the anxious, sometimes conflicting orders from the police officers, getting down on the ground, then moving slowly towards them with his hands raised, and finally lifting his shirt and turning around several times to show that he was not armed,” the lawsuit contends.
Footage shows Woodruff in handcuffs. Police had him detained for at least 30 minutes while they sorted things out.
In the aftermath of the event, he claims proffered counseling wasn’t sufficient and he was later denied a request for mental health treatment. He has been forced to miss work due to the trauma, he claims.
Victoria Petti, who is the hospital director, emailed staff at 5:11 pm to explain what had happened and apologize for “the stress” that was caused.
Supervisors were reportedly told not to inform subordinate employees or children of the drill.
Can you imagine what it was like for him to return to work after that debacle? Someone, other than him, needs to be fired.
— Bunny Shelton (@BunneeShelton) May 19, 2023
Two former Hawthorn Center employees told Click On Detroit in an interview that they were left with lasting trauma from the attack.
“After the drill was over, a lot of the children actually had to be sedated, so they had to call emergency for outside hospitals,” one of them said.
“I couldn’t stop crying, tears rolling down my eyes, I couldn’t stop shaking, I was trembling uncontrollably,” another claimed. “It’s created anxiety, trouble sleeping. Every time this is mentioned, it’s like reliving the event. So every little sound you hear, that I particularly heard, I felt like, okay, are they out in the hallway, you know, I really have nowhere to hide that’s going to protect me. So I just felt like, you know, this is probably going to be, you know, my last day here.”
One father named David Horeine, whose son was a patient at Hawthorn during the drill recalled that terrified parents placed themselves between the door and their children, hoping to save them.
“But the kids were informed if the adults were to go down, the kids would have to fight for their lives,” he told Click on Detroit.
According to Horeine, they weren’t told about the drill even after it took place.
“We find out over Facebook. We were never notified by the hospital about what happened at all on that day,” he stated. “I don’t mince words. So I will say that I think that people who orchestrated this event need to be terminated. I think that it was gross negligence.”
Two class-action lawsuits have been filed.
One lawsuit is against the state, as the Department of Health and Human Services operates the Hawthorn Center. The other lawsuit focuses on specific members of the hospital staff who initiated the unannounced active shooter drill.
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